HC Deb 26 January 1948 vol 446 cc88-91W
92. Colonel Gomme-Duncan

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the Government's proposal to reduce labour for road maintenance, what steps he intends to take for the proper upkeep of roads in Perthshire for which he is responsible.

Mr. Barnes

I have invited the co-operation of all highway authorities, both those engaged as my agents in the maintenance of trunk roads and others, to ensure that, despite reduced resources, the roads will be maintained to a standard which will enable them to carry essential traffic.

107. Sir. P. Macdonald

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has now consulted highway authorities with regard to the reduction of road maintenance grants and the cut of 20,000 in the road maintenance force; and if he will now make a further statement.

111. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is yet in a position to make available the text of the instructions which have been issued by him to highway authorities as to the considerations which they should have in mind in reducing road maintenance staff and expenditure.

1948. Mr. Barnes

After discussions with the representative Associations of highway authorities, I issued on 16th January a circular about the reduction in road works, the terms of which are given at the end of this reply: My divisional road engineers will very shortly be able to inform highway authorities of the grants which will be available towards road maintenance in 1948–49 and to settle with them the cuts in staff which will be expected from them.

Following is the circular:


Circular No. 618

Ministry of Transport,

Berkeley Square House,

London, W.[...].

th January,


County Councils,

County Borough Councils,

The Common Council of the City of London,

Metropolitan Borough Councils,

Town Councils,

Urban District Councils in England and Wales,

County Councils, large Burghs and Town Councils in Scotland.


Curtailment of the highway programme.

1. In the present need to curtail investment programmes and to release manpower for the export and import-saving industries, the Government have decided that there must be a substantial reduction in the level of new road construction and improvements previously contemplated, and also in road maintenance. As regards the former, programmes will be adjusted in accordance with the principles set forth in the following paragraph. As regards the latter, the principal aim of the reduction is to release 20,000 men out of the total of some 90,000 men employed by highway authorities in September, 1947; it is hoped that many of these men will take up farm work or work on rural housing.

New Construction and major improvements.

2. As regards new construction and major improvements on trunk roads and on roads which are grant-aided, highway authorities will be advised by the Divisional Road Engineers of the Minister's view as to the future of each individual scheme. The general policy will be to postpone the major works not yet started and to stop at the earliest practicable moment those already commenced except where they must be put in hand or completed to ensure the maintenance of essential communications or to realise the benefit of important expenditure already incurred (this relates particularly to bridgeworks) or where they are so near to completion that the balance of advantage lies in finishing the work. Smaller schemes are being examined, and only those which satisfy the same criteria or are urgently needed on grounds of public safety will be authorised.

3. The Government feel confident that they can rely on the highway authorities to apply the same policy and principles to any new road works or improvements they may have in hand or in contemplation on their own account and that applications for authorisation under Regulation 56A of the Defence (General) Regulations will be restricted accordingly.

Maintenance and minor improvements.

4. The application of a uniform reduction to maintenance and minor improvement work contemplated by each highway authority during the present financial year would not best serve the object in view. Consequently, whilst the national target must be taken as fixed, the Minister's Divisional Road Engineers will discuss and settle with each highway authority according to its relative needs the cut it should make as its contribution towards that target. These discussions will enable the present state of the roads in the area, the volume and nature of the traffic using them and all other relevant considerations to be taken into account. It is appreciated that the full reductions cannot be effected at once but a start should be made forthwith (without necessarily waiting for the amount of the cut to be fixed) and the full cut should be achieved by the end of the present financial year. In order to assist the Ministry of Labour in making arrangements for the re-employment of the men released under these arrangements highway authorities are asked to advise the local offices of the Ministry of Labour as early as possible in advance when any significant number of men is to be discharged.

5. The money to be made available from the Road Fund next year for the maintenance of trunk roads and for grants towards the maintenance of classified roads will be reduced accordingly, and the Government look to the highway authorities (especially those authorities which receive no maintenance grants from the Road Fund) to adjust their own expenditure on the same basis. The Minister feels sure that he can count on the authorities to discuss and settle this latter aspect of the matter with the Divisional Road Engineers and to take appropriate action in the national interest without the necessity for any formal control over work undertaken on their own account.

Returns of labour employed.

6. Authorities are asked to render to the Minister's Divisional Road Engineers as early as possible in April, 1948, returns of the number of roadmen directly employed by them, on work on both trunk and non-trunk roads, as at 1st September, 1947 (or the nearest convenient date), and 1st April, 1948. The term "roadmen" is intended to mean men up to and including the grade of foremen employed in the Highways Department of the Council The returns should show separate figures of roadmen who are covered by a superannuation scheme and those who are not.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


Deputy Secretary.

The Clerk of the Council.

The Town Clerk.

(A copy of this circular letter is forwarded herewith for the information of the Surveyor and Accounting Officer of your Council and in the case of Scottish Councils an additional copy is sent for the information of the Auditor.)